Setting up Your Christmas Buffet Early

There are so many ways to enjoy having guests into your home, and today I want to show you how simple a Christmas buffet can be. For very little work involved, if you start early by planning ahead and getting all of your dishes out, you’ll be one happy hostess!

Basically you can set up work stations around your house. I’ve used the side-table, the piano top for desserts, the desk area for drinks … use your imagination!

And the beauty is, you can do it ahead of time, complete with plates, flatware, glasses, linens, even drinks.

I set this buffet up 2 days before my event, so it would be ready to go!

-Plan ahead
-Pull out your serving platters and dishes
-Think about color schemes
-Think about napkins, candles, how to make it look nice
-Keep it simple
-Once it’s set up, it’s done. You can check it off your list!

What works perfectly for serving buffet-style is that guests can easily go back for seconds.

Yeah! We all love seconds, and thirds! (I do!)

You also get to mingle and enjoy the people around you, and sit by the people you want to sit with.

Many times buffet-style dinner means that there is no set table, and you sit around the living room, dining room, family room, even on the floor or on the stairs.

When the guests arrive–and hopefully they are bringing some dishes to share–you put it all together, relax, and enjoy your company!

Mm-m-m, so what about …

How do you commence a meal that’s random buffet?

Do people sit wherever they want?

Does someone yell when it’s time to eat?

Do you call everyone to pray first?

Do you explain the “rules” to people, so they know where they can be and not be in your house with their food?

Would you answer one of the above questions and share what you’ve learned when serving buffet-style meals?


  1. Hi Sandy,
    We typically eat buffet style in our home. Guests can sit wherever they are most comfortable as my home is small, seating is limited so I have them sit in all rooms. We gather everyone is a circle prior to eating for prayer time and then everyone can get their food. Have a beautiful day :)

  2. My parents always do big buffets for group meals (especially Thanksgiving), so I can only share what they do – my husband and I are still ironing out the kinks to my our parties our own. :-) My mom whistles, my dad prays and explains the rules, then my mom always adds that people can sit wherever they want. It’s relaxed and wonderful. :-)

    We’re doing our first-ever Christmas Eve dinner at our house this year and I’m planning to do it buffet style for convenience. I’ll pull all the chairs I can from around the house and then open it up. I’m on the hunt for people who don’t have any family in the area, who won’t be going somewhere for Christmas, single parents who will be without their kids this holiday season. I want it to be fun and relaxed and I want everyone to feel the Love of Christ in our home. That’s my goal anyway. :-)

  3. Hi Sandy!
    I am all for setting up early! I will have so much going on the next couple of weeks, school parties, music programs, picking up kids from college! So early set up is a must!

    As far as the actual day of the event, I set up the buffet in one area, and set tables in the dining room and kitchen, but I also put snacks on the coffee table in the living room and family room so guests know they can eat wherever they feel comfortable! I love for people to feel at home when they come to my house!

  4. I commented earlier, our house is small and I don’t really like buffets but in order to include everyone I’m having a buffet this year. I don’t like balancing my plate on my knees while I eat.. I don’t care where people sit but know all the men will end up in the living room and the women in the kitchen. Anyone else have that problem? The kids will be happy in the sunroom (but I’m unplugging the computer…Oh No!) Can you tell I’m a little fussy about this? Hahaha.

    Like Jaet says tho, we will gather in a circle and I’ll ask our Son In Law to lead us in prayer. We will give thanks that we can all be together and that is the thought that I’m holding on to.

    Meanwhile I’ll be combing your comments for suggestions and ideas.


  5. Buffet style is the easiest way to feed a crowd and that’s exactly what I’m doing when we have my family over next week (total of 30+) – everyone brings a dish, so I set things out ahead of time and just add onto the table as items arrive.
    We always serve clockwise with plates at one end and cutlery at the other (found it easier to serve yourself if your hands aren’t full). I always wrap the cutlery in the napkins and stack them in a basket or on a gold tray (at this time of year).
    No rules, everyone eats where they want – the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, we’ve even had people eating on the stairs.
    Much more relaxed than trying to serve a sit down.

  6. This so timely for me as I’m having a total of 14 for a buffet over the holidays. My house is small; really only 3 rooms to use and a dining room table that only seats 6 comfortably. Still not sure exactly where I’m going to put them all, but I’ll work it out somehow. My biggest challenge is keeping the two dogs I’ll be watching away from the food! I’m just hoping it’s not raining outside so I can put them in the yard while we eat.

  7. Buffet is very common at my home, too. Casual setting to make my guest feel comfortable. I like to keep the snack bowls and drinks in plain view. Many times I will start with a quick welcome, introductions and ask guest(s) if they’d like to have a drink first. The napkins, plates and utensils set the stage for the beginning “line up” with the food to either side of my island. I think it allows better flow for our space. And if someone missed something on the first, they have the second and third trip to catch the rest.

  8. Great ideas here… your music stand!

  9. Hi Sandy,

    What a lovely buffet! And I just love the branches with lights. How pretty!!!

    When I serve buffet style, I usually ask one person (usually my husband) to call everyone to gather together to say a prayer. Once the prayer is done, he’ll start handing folks plates and say “dig in!” It always makes everyone feel at home and comfortable to start filling their plates. :-)

    Also, one thing I have learned when it comes to serving a buffet – is that sometimes folks don’t go back to get more food. To make everyone feel comfortable to enjoy second helpings, my husband and I usually each carry a platter around the table offering second helpings. This always works out well and folks usually take more food.

    For seating – yes, I always have assigned seats – usually with some sort of cute place cards. I find that this avoids that problem of folks asking me where they should sit or worrying if they are sitting in the right place. I’m also very old fashioned and I tend to sit folks “boy-girl-boy-girl” and I put shy/quiet people in the middle of the table so that they always feel included.

    Sometimes, when it comes to dessert, I keep things very informal so folks can roam, sit in the kitchen, sit in the living room, etc. I use the dining room table as the dessert table and set-up a coffee/tea bar in the kitchen. I don’t have any rules on where folks can go or not go – take food or not take food. Most folks stay on the first floor, but sometimes I’ve had people wander upstairs to enjoy the deck and the view of the lake. But I don’t really worry about it. Even if things are a little disorganized upstairs and not as “polished” looking as downstairs, I remind myself that they are visiting me to have a good time and not focus on my housecleaning (or lack there of…LOL!!!). And when it comes to crumbs…I never worry…having a large dog helps a lot when it comes to taking care of crumbs! LOL!!!

    Have a great weekend.



  10. I love this post. We have a buffet dinner on Christmas eve. People sit everywhere and I think a smaller place is better because people talk and get to know each other better.

    The prayer is always a problem for us. My Husband ,son and I always pray before our meals, but most of our family does not. I would like to gather everyone around and pray, but my husband thinks it will make his family uncomfortable. I’m going to have him read these suggestions. Thanks.

  11. Very nice! I always set my large table in the dining room first (it seats 12 comfortably) and use my nook table as a buffet. The raised kitchen bar is where I do my appetizers. I ALWAYS set the table the night before – so it’s done! I also set out my serving dishes with a note as to what goes into each dish. That way I can arrange them to have the traffic flow well. I have a bakers rack in the dining room set up for self serve drinks – and my husband always makes sure drinks are re-filled and folks are eating appetizers & happy while I put the finishing touches on a meal.

    ….then – because he’s a sweetie pie….he does the dishes and enlists the rest of the guys! He says if the women can cook for days for a single meal, the guys can do the dishes!

  12. We love doing a buffet for all the reasons you mentioned. We’re able to entertain outside a lot, so we make sure the doors are open to the pool deck, the bar is set up in between the traffic blow between the family room and pool, and that candles are lit and you can hear music outside to draw the flow of people out. It seems to work well. We start dinner by turning down the music and calling to prayer. So much to be thankful for when you have food to offer, and friends to offer it to!

  13. We have 3 little decorative bells, and when it’s time to eat, we recrute 3 people (kids love this) to ring the bells to let everyone know it’s time to take their seat and pray before we start the buffet. Our last prayer is always the same “Good bread, good meat, good God let’s eat!!”

  14. I am having Christmas dinner at my home this year. We are going to be 55 people (including kids). I have a large pool table in our Game Room with a cover. I would like to use it for the buffet for dinner. Can you give me any ideas as to how to place the food and how to decorate it. The room is decorated in red/white/with a hint of green. I would appreciate any help that you can give me.

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